The head of the World Health Organization says he’s hoping for better co-operation and access to data from China in the search for the origins of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says getting access to raw data had been a challenge for the international expert team that travelled to China this year to investigate the cause of the outbreak, which was first reported from Wuhan.
He says the Geneva-based body is asking China “to be transparent, open and co-operate, especially on the information, raw data that we asked for at the early days of the pandemic.”
He also says there had been a “premature push” to rule out the theory that the coronavirus might have escaped from a Chinese government lab in Wuhan.
“I was a lab technician myself, I’m an immunologist, and I have worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen,” he said.
“It’s common. Checking what happened, especially in our labs, is important and we need information, direct information on what the situation of this lab was before and at the start of the pandemic. Then, if we get full information, we can exclude that.”
Tedros says the world owes it to the millions who have died “to know what happened and to prevent the same crisis from happening again. And that’s why we need co-operation.”
His words were echoed by German Health Minister Jens Spahn, who urged Chinese officials to allow the investigation into the origins of the virus to proceed.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had reported 1,422,242 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 4,845 considered active. The country’s COVID-19 death toll stood at 26,471. More than 44.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far across the country, according to a CBC News tally.
British Columbia on Thursday recorded its first COVID-19 death in several days. The province also added 54 new cases.
In Ontario, which registered 143 new cases and 10 more deaths on Thursday, Premier Doug Ford firmly rejected the possibility of implementing vaccine passports in the province. Meanwhile, starting tomorrow, the province will move into Stage 3 of its reopening plan, which allows for indoor dining, a return to cinemas and increased retail capacity limits.
Quebec, which confirmed 65 new cases and an additional death, announced Thursday that youths 12-17 can now move up their appointments for a second dose of vaccine.
In the Atlantic provinces, neither Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Newfoundland and Labrador reported any new cases on Thursday, but the N.L. Department of Health confirmed 23 new cases aboard a Portuguese fishing vessel currently anchored in Conception Bay. Prince Edward Island, which has no active cases, is set to open its borders on Sunday to fully vaccinated Canadians from outside the Atlantic region who have a PEI Pass.
In the North, Nunavut did not report any new cases on Thursday, while Yukon announced six new infections overnight. In the Northwest Territories, many restrictions are set to loosen next week, including the ban on in-person dining and the need for gym appointments.
What’s happening around the world
As of Thursday, more than 188.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to a case-tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than four million.
In Asia, Tokyo reported 1,300 new cases on Thursday, a six-month high, just one week before the start of the Olympics. The Japanese capital is currently under a fourth state of emergency.
In Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, director of the WHO Africa Region, says the continent has registered a million infections in the past month and hospitals are at a breaking point. Health officials in Africa are concerned about the slow arrival of vaccines. Just over one per cent of the continent’s 1.3 billion people are fully vaccinated.
In the Americas, COVID-19 deaths in Argentina have now surpassed 100,000, a blow to a country that intermittently imposed some of the most severe lockdowns in the world, only to see erratic compliance by many people. The country was struggling economically even before the pandemic and many citizens ignored quarantine regulations so they could make a living and support their families.
In Europe, a top official at the European Medicines Agency says a decision on whether to recommend the Moderna vaccine be authorized for children is expected late next week. It could become the first such licence for the shot’s use in children globally.